Athens Is In Flames

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Athens Is In Flames

Postby Alja-Markir » 12 Feb 2012, 22:27

Reuters has the full story here, but here's the long and short of it.

The Greek economy is in a bad place. Living standards are low, jobs are scarce, it's a mess.

Greece currently has a very large chunk of national debt which is about to come due on March 20. Greece needs 14.5 billion euros before then, or the nation will default on its debt.

But Greece doesn't have the money. Consequently, the Greek government is trying to get the country bailed out by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. They're asking to borrow the money they need to pay the debt: essentially they are asking for the debt to be extended.

But there's something odd. Greece owes 14.5 billion euros, but is asking for a bail-out almost ten times that size: 130 billions euros. This extra money is ostensibly meant to fuel the Greek economy, bolstering and stabilizing it. If we are to look at the recent bail-outs in the United States and Ireland, however, it seems likely that much of these excess funds will simply vanish into thin air - eatten up by bankers and CEOs through massive bonuses and pay raises.

In order to get this money from the EU and the IMF, Greek politicians are being forced to push legislature through the Greek Parliament. Greek law is currently literally being dictated by corporate and private interests, not by the people of Greece.

The Greek Parliament just pushed through an "austerity" bill. It calls for massive budget cuts across the board, most noticeably in the areas of wages, pensions, and employment. The minimum hourly wage will be dropped by 22 percent.

This bill has faced monumental public outrage and opposition. With many Greeks already struggling to make ends meet as it is, the prospect of losing their jobs, their pensions, or almost a quarter of their hourly wages is unbearable. Consequently, the Greek people have taken to the streets in widespread protests. Anger and frustration is running very high, and protesting has given way to rioting. The Greek people are on the verge of a mass revolt.

In response to the public unrest, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos issued the following quote: "Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country and won't be tolerated". But, and I am genuinely horrified to say this and wish it wasn't true, Greece cannot be called a democratic country at present.

Prime Minister Papademos was not democratically elected - he was forcibly instated. Greek law is not being democratically legislated - it is being oligarchically dictated. The Greek people are being made to shoulder the burden of debts which they never had a voice in incurring. And perhaps most unbelievable of all, democratically elected representatives were stripped of their positions for dissenting against the majority opinion.

Reuters wrote:Altogether 199 of the 300 lawmakers backed the bill, but 43 deputies from the two parties in the government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, the socialists and conservatives, rebelled by voting against It. They were immediately expelled by their parties.

This is scary, scary stuff people. This could set off world changing trends. Keep your eyes open and your fingers crossed that things don't go from bad to worse.

~Alja~
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Allen! » 12 Feb 2012, 22:51

I was just making fun of Greece today. Crazy.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Dutch guy » 12 Feb 2012, 23:10

No matter how you put it, this is the fault of Greece and it's people itself. They have one of the lowest pension ages in Europe with a pretty high government "old age payment" (dunno what to call it). They have a MASSIVE amount of government workers, many of whom have very unclear job description and barely any work. Money is/was wasted left and right. Corruption is rife, especially within the lower echelons of the local government. There is also massive amounts of fraud going on. Like people pulling welfare because they are supposedly very poor, while still driving a Porsche Cayenne.

The now proposed bailout has to be that high because the 45 billion which has to be paid in march is only the tip of the iceberg. Greece's debt is staggeringly big.

I am of the firm opinion the best option right now would be for the EU to stop wasting money on greece, boot it out of the Eurozone and let it go bankrupt. The current plan is a farce and most financial experts are convinced it won't work anyway. As Alja pointed out, most of the money the EU would put into greece would just evaporate.

So yeah, maybe the greeks are pissed and maybe they feel they are bing unfairly treated. For a lot of them they just don't want to lose their pensions at age 45 and cushy lives.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Tycherin » 12 Feb 2012, 23:57

Just going to throw this out there: Greek debt is somewhere around 150% annual GDP. The USA's debt is sitting at about 101% annual GDP. The difference between the USA and Greece is that China was willing to bail us out.

Anyway, I think this is going to go poorly. I don't want to wish suffering on others, but part of me hopes this goes down in flames. If things are going downhill, they might as well really go downhill.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby the_lone_bard » 13 Feb 2012, 00:21

America, 15 years ahead of it's time.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Alja-Markir » 13 Feb 2012, 00:38

...

...

...

Seriously, folks?

The government of a major european nation is depriving it's citizens of the basic systems of democracy and some of you are making snide insinuations of Greece's supposed deservedness of the crisis and hopes for things to get WORSE?

The government of Greece may "deserve" the situation it has gotten itself into, but actual living breathing people's lives are being caught in the fucking grinder here.

I'm going to go to bed before I say something "offensive" or "controversial" here while I try to process this blasé response to suffering being caused by the flawed nature of a global system that runs off rampant beauracracy and greed.

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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby allonewordnospaces » 13 Feb 2012, 00:57

Well, I just can't see the situation getting any better with the way things are now. Simply put, it will get worse before it gets better. Either the idiots in charge will step down and there will be a massive change in the way the government works in Greece, or they will do anything to hold onto their power, strangling the people of Greece as they go down in flames. And guess what the more likely scenario is?

I hate to be a downer, but this is not the first time something like this has happened, and it won't be the last.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Lord Hosk » 13 Feb 2012, 01:29

Im not going to say that this is the fault of all greek people, in the abstract it is but thats not the point. The point that people are trying to make Alja-Markir is that while the situation is tragic it didn't occur because of what happened yesterday it is because of what the Greek government has been doing at the behest of the people for the past 40 years. The Greek politicians are making choices from a list of terrible choices.

The Greek people want Greece as it was 10 years ago and refuse to accept anything else. The Greek government doesn't want to see the country devolve into 50 more years of revolutions and wars. Lets not forget Greece has been relatively unstable since 1830.

Alja-Markir wrote:but actual living breathing people's lives are being caught in the fucking grinder here...
I try to process this blasé response to suffering being caused by the flawed nature of a global system that runs off rampant beauracracy and greed.


What you are missing here is that the majority of the rampant bureaucracy and greed is the living breathing people.

It sucks its a terrible situation and a lot of people are getting and will continue to get hurt by it. However this has been a long time coming, I recall talking about Greece when I was in high school and how people get government pensions in their 40s while living past 80 and a month of paid vacation every year. That means for the average Greek they work for 280 months, and adding up pre and post work life, live without working for over 700 months.

ETA: I was in high school before some of the people on this board were alive.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Allen! » 13 Feb 2012, 01:29

All I'm gonna say is, in Grease, there should have been a guy named Zeus, because "Grease(Greece) Lightning" is too good an opportunity to not make a play on words for stuff like this.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby sdhonda » 13 Feb 2012, 01:34

Lord Hosk wrote:Im not going to say that this is the fault of all greek people, in the abstract it is but thats not the point. The point that people are trying to make Alja-Markir is that while the situation is tragic it didn't occur because of what happened yesterday it is because of what the Greek government has been doing at the behest of the people for the past 40 years. The Greek politicians are making choices from a list of terrible choices.

The Greek people want Greece as it was 10 years ago and refuse to accept anything else. The Greek government doesn't want to see the country devolve into 50 more years of revolutions and wars. Lets not forget Greece has been relatively unstable since 1830.

Alja-Markir wrote:but actual living breathing people's lives are being caught in the fucking grinder here...
I try to process this blasé response to suffering being caused by the flawed nature of a global system that runs off rampant beauracracy and greed.


What you are missing here is that the majority of the rampant bureaucracy and greed is the living breathing people.

It sucks its a terrible situation and a lot of people are getting and will continue to get hurt by it. However this has been a long time coming, I recall talking about Greece when I was in high school and how people get government pensions in their 40s while living past 80 and a month of paid vacation every year. That means for the average Greek they work for 280 months, and adding up pre and post work life, live without working for over 700 months.

ETA: I was in high school before some of the people on this board were alive.


Hear hear.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby iamafish » 13 Feb 2012, 01:57

I know this has been said before, but I think the point needs stressing. While what is going on in Greece right now is tragic and the people are suffering, the Greek economy and government is in crisis because of the mindset of the Greek people. That is; if there's a tax, there's a way of not paying it. The Greek people (horrible generalisation, but the fact is that it is a majority) shamelessly use the Greek state as a cash cow. The state in its current state is completely unsustainable, especially in light of the current economic crisis.

I do have sympathy for the Greek people, but Alja, the impression you gave was of a people victimised and ignored by mean little bureaucrats. The reality is far less black and white. The whole Greek mindset is incompatible with a western state bureaucracy. The system has been being driven into the ground by greed for years. The economic crisis brought the real problem into crisis.

I don't know what the solution is, but continuing to fund this corrupt system is not it.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby JackSlack » 13 Feb 2012, 02:28

It's a massive, messed up problem. Basically, the Germans are keeping Greece on the hook in ridiculous fashion. But the alternative is to ask Germany and German people to accept the massive risk and potentially run their own economy into the ground. Equally unattractive, for Germany at least.

Kevin Drum lays it down pretty well. This piece is a little old, but the fundamental issues remain the same.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Lord Chrusher » 13 Feb 2012, 02:32

Greece should never have been let into the Euro.

Greece is bankrupt and has in effect defaulted on its debts (they are not calling this a default to prevent credit default swaps from triggering) since private investors are getting 30 cents on the Euro. No matter what happens Greece is in for hard times. Whatever hardship is the result of these imposed austerity measures, Greece leaving the Euro would be worse. The debts of Greek businesses and banks would still be in Euros - as the value of the new drachma fell they would become bankrupt. It is in Europe's interest (including those bits of Europe not in the Euro zone) to keep Greece from collapsing. If Greece collapsed the risk is the collapse could spread to Portugal, Spain and Italy. The Euro could survive Portugal in direr straights but serious trouble in Spain or Italy could sink Europe.

Considering the Greeks will get to go to the polls this spring and express there opinions I think calling Greece undemocratic is premature.

Rather than directing your anger at international finance you should be directing your anger at the voters of northern Europe, particularly those of Germany. By focusing on austerity and by preventing the European Central Bank from being more active the Northern Europeans are making life worse for the Greeks. Admittedly the the votes in the northern European countries are annoyed but at least their governments are following the wishes of their voters.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby plummeting_sloth » 13 Feb 2012, 06:34

In a parliamentary party system, your position is given to you by the party. People don't vote for you, they vote for the party (unless you're running alone as a single district party). You are at the parties whims... if you go against it, the party is fully within it's rights to sack you and replace you. You may be punished at the polls for it next election, but that will usually be because of the party's apparent lack of discipline, not because you "removed the peoples choice". The people did choose them. The US is fairly unique in this regard, which is why people that say "But the Dem's had 60 senators..." are somehow mistaking the US for a parliamentary system where those that go against party interests can be controlled. See also Boehner vs. the Tea Party Caucus.

As for the US. Vs Greece comparisons, there are a lot of errors there. First and foremost, we control our own currency. Greece does not, and is being hurt for it. This is not the first time this has happened there... far from it. Previously, it had massively inflated into's own currency attract a lot of outside spending (good exchange rate) and to issue a lot of direct government funding to the people (which is why at the start of this nearly half the working population population was either someway employed by the government or receiving a pension through it). However, it had a hard time borrowing money from others for big projects cause investors were concerned about the ROI and the government basically inflating their way to repayment.

Once Greece went on the Euro though (which at the time, yes, the people did want), all of a sudden the government (as, yes again, they were told by the people voting) had the ability to borrow to outside money at much lower rates then before. And they did, big time. A fair amount of got burned up in the boondoogle of Olympic infrastructure and more went to bring pensions and wages up to the European levels (at lower retirement ages, of course). Massive tax evasion (legitimately started not to fund the military junta and then carried over as tradition) didn't matter cause they could keep borrowing at better rates. Until the credit crunch hit, and the rates started to go back. And Greece realized that without the inflated lira, a lot of the outside tourism and offshoring that had gone away. So now much of the debt is in foreign hand rather than their own, and their two principle means of negating that debt (non-native spending and inflation) are no longer available. To the average person on the street (who had no problem taking advantage of all of this during the good times), default is (or at least appears to be) the better option, so they're trying to drive the government to neg on the Euro and go back to lira where everything was fine before. Of course, it won't be, as their default would probably destroy the Euro and mean that all that outside spending won;t come back no matter how worthless their currency is. Also, the people that own all that debt (which is at a MUCH higher level that we owe China {a few percent of ours vs. a majority of theirs) are very much determined not to let that happen.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby psychopez » 13 Feb 2012, 06:44

A few weeks ago This American Life / Planet Money did a piece about the history of situation in Greece, including how and why it got to be where it is, and is well worth an hour of your time.

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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Elomin Sha » 13 Feb 2012, 07:01

I had no part in this.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby plummeting_sloth » 13 Feb 2012, 07:03

Pfft! Everyone knows you have Chancellor Merkels ear, Sha... and a few other parts as well.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Elomin Sha » 13 Feb 2012, 07:39

You mean her face, which I wear for special occasions?
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby plummeting_sloth » 13 Feb 2012, 07:45

In a jar by the door. Right next to your more casual Eleanor Rigby.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Geoff_B » 13 Feb 2012, 07:52

Next to the fireplace.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Elomin Sha » 13 Feb 2012, 08:30

Actually I do have a fire place in my room. The only time I used it was trying to block a mouse from coming back down with my PS3.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Lord Hosk » 13 Feb 2012, 08:54

A second thing I fail to understand is why people keep including "this is the birthplace of democracy" as though that was somehow an argument. The concept of democracy was arguably created in Athens 2500 years ago I fail to see how that has anything to do with the current situation other than a select few people are in charge just like the democracy they invented which had two major qualifiers for a vote, being trained as a warrior and having a penis.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby Dutch guy » 13 Feb 2012, 10:20

The biggest argument against "the greek people are stuck in a non democratic system" is this: That particular democratic system is the CAUSE of all the problems. NOW politicians are doing what they need to, to SAVE they country and the income of all those people. The problem is they are having a hard time convincing their own people it NEEDS to be done.

I agree that a lot of problems come from Germany and France not allowing the ECB to simply print some more euros (act as lender of last resort). This would have solved things very fast. (yes, it would create inflation, there is heavy debate about whether it would be as bad as the EU is trying to make us believe) And I agree that it would be a much better solution than letting greece go bankrupt.

I HIGHLY resent the current plans that pretty much amounts to shoveling more money into a bottomless pit. Money that would end up in the hands of those who probably least need it. The Dutch goverment is also supporting the plans with many billions of Euro's. At the same time they are cutting funding for pensions, healthcare, education, public works, police, etc, etc, because there is not enough money.

France promised to put so much money into the emergency fund that IF it would ever actually pay that much money into it, France would go bankrupt. There are a lot of dirty dirty politics going on, and I have a feeling things are going to suck unnecessarily hard.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby JackSlack » 13 Feb 2012, 14:01

As far as I see it, there are three ways this will play out.

1. Greece leaves the Euro, devalues its currency, and gets ready for a decade of miserable pain.
2. Germany bails out Greece with no austerity measures, putting both countries in moderate-to-severe pain for about a decade.
3. Germany bails out Greece but continues to demand austerity measures in return, putting both countries in moderate-to-severe pain for the foreseeable future with no obvious endpoint.

You can argue, to my mind, that either of the first two is better, but the third is the one they're doing.
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Re: Athens Is In Flames

Postby rustak » 13 Feb 2012, 20:44

JackSlack wrote:1. Greece leaves the Euro, devalues its currency, and gets ready for a decade of miserable pain.

There is a variation of this -- Greece leaves the Euro through a messy process causing upheaval in the Eurozone... this cascades to other countries like Portugal, and the single currency falls apart, plunging most of Europe into lots of miserable pain.

None of the options are all that appealing, but the situation seems too far gone to have any kind of gradual resolution happen :/

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